Thaksin wants strong support base before contemplating return

Thaksin wants strong support base before contemplating return
Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has told a South Korean newspaper that he would prefer to wait until support for his camp is strong enough before making a political return.

Speaking to Chosun Ilbo in Seoul, Thaksin said he wanted to tell his red-shirt supporters who were calling for his return to "wait patiently until our voice gains strength". But he insisted that "violence is not the answer".

In 2010, street protests in Bangkok by Thaksin's supporters led to unrest and riots. More than 90 people were killed and 2,000 others were injured in the weeks of violence.

The ex-premier, who is living in exile overseas to avoid imprisonment at home, gave an exclusive interview to Chosun Ilbo. He was in Seoul earlier this week attending the Asian Leadership Conference, which was organised by the newspaper. Thaksin was a speaker at the annual international event.

Thaksin also had a message for Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha. "Matters of the people should be resolved democratically … What the military wants and what the general public wants are different. What I mean is that the people should not be seen as subordinates."

When asked how he views the post-coup government, Thaksin responded: "It is regrettable that politics is moving backwards only in Thailand when advances are being made across the world.

"I want to clone the DNA of the Thai democracy. I want to take it [DNA] into the 'Thaksin lab' to make a stronger and better democracy."

Meanwhile, General Prayut has told the American cable news channel CNN that his government remained committed to returning Thailand to democracy, despite repeated delays in the timetable for new elections.

"I reaffirm, as I always have, that our country must be fully democratic, but it must be a constitutional monarchy. I am not trying to resist or delay or meddle with this at all. I don't want to be in power," he said.

Thaksin, who has retained his influence in the formerly-ruling Pheu Thai Party, alleged that the new constitution aimed "to bring about the rise of many small parties in order to prevent a particular party wielding too much power".

He added: "A new constitution that reflects the will of the people should be established."

He defended his younger sister, former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who has been charged with negligence in connection with her government's Bt518-billion corruption-plagued rice-pledging scheme.

"It was a policy to help the poor. It is probably the first time in the world that a prime minister was indicted for such a policy. It is a contradiction to want to generate profits while helping the poor. Is it not the obvious thing to do in spite of losses? Other countries have similar policies," he told Chosun Ilbo.

Thaksin also defended his political party's populist policies.

"The poor can benefit from such policies, and they can spend the money," he said.

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